They got back to the base and they were absolutely exhausted. The battle was hard. The casualties were counted as 27. When the group got out, Wolf told them to gather. A memorial wall had been started by one of them. It was electronic now, but they were going to get a stone one for when the war was over. They all gathered and it looked like they were at a church. Those with hats removed them. Gabby hit a switch, which made the entire helmet section of her armor collapse. The General, now being called Black Mask (a title that he liked quickly), stood with the rest. He then noticed that Wolf was the only one who didn’t remove her headgear.
He leaned over to Deathstroke. “That’s a bit rude, isn’t it?”
“Ah, right, I forgot to tell you – Wolf doesn’t show her face. She says that it is for her and our protection. I choose not to make an issue of that because she has given us victory, thus far. You get used to it.”
Black Mask looked a little annoyed. To have a commander hide their identity, it was a sign that they couldn’t trust her, as far as he was concerned.
Wolf got to the wall, inputting the names of those who were casualties that night.
“Today, we struck a great blow to the Empire. Our mission was a resounding success. However, it was not without cost.”
Gabby nodded. The Runners hadn’t been involved in this mission. Wolf had them stay out. But these were still comrades in arms. She noticed one young man doing a cross on his chest. While she wasn’t a religious person, she liked what that symbolized. Passing to a better place.
“We must never forget those who fall in defense of our ideals. They are all the very best among us. The most dedicated among us. If there is a better place after we leave this one, then I am sure that they made their way there, to the people who love them.”
The names came up and they all bowed their head in respect. There was a long moment of silence. From behind them, the women with the green glowing eyes on their hoods stood there. They seemed very confused by it all.
Then, Wolf spoke again. “Now, you all did incredibly well.” She looked over at Gabby. “Especially you, Firefly.”
Gabby couldn’t help but blush. Deathstroke chuckled, gently punching her shoulder.
“Unpack and secure your weapons and armor. Then, head home. We will meet back here in another week, for another large mission.”
Ghost stepped forward, his hood and mask off. “Wait a tic! What happened to striking while the iron is hot?!”
Black Mask shook his head. “No, you all have done enough. Wolf is right. You all need rest. A hard battle has just happened, and with the Empire now facing countless fires across the nation, we have some room to regroup.”
Wolf nodded. “Indeed. We are also going to be getting to work training our new recruits. The numbers coming in are in the thousands. It’s a good day. I will also be talking with other resistance commanders to see who I want to put in larger commands. This will take time, and now we have it. You all did good today. You have earned some rest.”
Deathstroke pointed at the women in the back. “What about our new ‘allies?'”
Nobody could help but hear the dark tone he used. The women laughed.
“What, you think we’re enemies? You all would be dead right now if it weren’t for us!” Their cocky attitude was not being well-taken by the group.
Wolf stepped forward. “Before we know if you’re ally or enemy, it would help if you all would take off your hoods.”
The woman stepped to her as well. “A big thing to say, coming from a broad who always wears a mask!”
In a flash, Deathstroke drew his blade, putting it to her throat. “Back the fuck off, bitch! NOW!”
She stepped back, but clearly wasn’t afraid.
Wolf stepped back as well. “If that’s how you want to be, you can show yourselves out.” She started to walk away.
The entire group looked amazed. “Did that bitch just tell us to leave?!” one shouted in her native tongue.
Wolf looked back at her, replying in the same language, “yes, and if you don’t, I will have them kill you.”
That got the entire group to step back. The leader then held up her hand. “Wait! Alright, have it your way.” She took off her hood. Her skin was dark, but not African dark. Wolf sized her up and figured out quickly who she was.
“I see, so we’re in the presence of the Amazons.”
Everyone looked at them.
“Unbelievable!” Gabby murmured.
“So, these are the famous Amazons,” Black Mask concurred. “Impressive.”
The one who removed her hood stepped forward. “Yes. My name is Aveline. I started this little band of warriors deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. Back then, we didn’t have the gear we do now. They were a gift, from a mutual acquaintance.” The smile on her face grew.
“So, they are helping multiple resistance movements,” Deadshot snorted. “And here I thought we were special.”
Wolf shook her head. “I knew that they were helping the resistance in Area 4-”
“Brazil!” another one snapped. “It’s Brazil, god-dammit!”
Aveline held up her hand. “Sorry about that. I suspect that the feelings we have are much the same as the people who work for you, when it comes to nationality.”
Fair enough. “Apologies. In any case, I knew that Luthor was helping other groups.”
Aveline cocked an eyebrow. “Luthor?”
“A code-name that I gave him. I rarely call people by their given names. It keeps everyone safe, if the identities of this organization are shrouded in mystery.”
The girl smiled. “I see. So, if we were to join up with you, what would our code-name be?”
Without missing a beat, “Copperhead.”
That got an even bigger smile. “Luthor, Black Mask, Deathstroke and now Copperhead. Someone likes their DC comics.”
“True enough. So now the question becomes, are you joining up with us? And better question – why?”
That took some of the wind out of Aveline’s sails. “We’re losing. Fast. That fucking prince, Adam, and his troops are mopping the deck with us. I don’t like being in a sinking ship. Not my style. I’d rather go where there is a fight that we can win. You follow?”
Many in the group nodded. It was Wolf who answered. “Alright, but you’re not given carte blanche to do whatever you want. You will be under Ghost’s command.”
“The hell we are!” another shouted.
Again, Aveline held up her hand. “Ma’am, I’ve got repore with these girls. I promise, I will follow your orders to the letter. Let us keep our own unit. As a favor to me.”
Everyone looked at Wolf. Finally, she nodded. “Alright, but if you step out of line, you’re done. Got me?”
“Alright then, secure your armor inside the Armory. There is space by Ghost and his people’s.”
They all stood at attention and saluted. “Yes ma’am!”
As she walked away, Black Mask approached. “You sure that it is a good idea, letting them join up with us? They’re cocky and arrogant firecrackers. Odds are that they will do something stupid and get themselves killed.”
Wolf shrugged. “Well, in that case, then they won’t be a liability for long. Now, get back to civvie gear and head home. I have secured a residence for you inside the ghetto, General.”
They all nodded, heading off.
Wolf got to the conference room, plopping down in a chair, From the dark, a voice called out.
“Ma’am, can I talk to you?” It was Gabby.
She took off her mask, looking over. “Sure thing, Gabby. What do you need?”
The girl sat close to her, seeming nervous. She was still wearing the skin that went with her armor. “Why was that armor for me? I’m just a Runner. Why did it recognize me as its owner?”
Wolf leaned forward, smiling at the girl. “Because I know your aptitude scores. The tests that were done on your physical condition in school. I had a gut-feeling that you were the one for that Armor. The person who could become my left hand in battle. I’m glad to see that I was right.”
The girl was almost over the moon. She ran over and hugged Wolf. “Thank you!” She stepped back suddenly. “Sorry! It’s just…no one has ever really believed in me before. I became a Runner so that I could do something that mattered, but I am still treated like I don’t belong. Right now, I feel like I’m doing something important. Thank you.”
Wolf smiled, knocking her on the chin. “Chin up, old girl. We’ve got a lot of work to do. And you need to get better acquainted with that Armor. When we come back here in a week, I want you to do some exercises in it, understood?”
Gabby stood up, saluting. “Yes ma’am!”
“That’s my girl. Now, get out of that skin. It is very distracting, trying to think about how I am virtually seeing you naked.” She stuck out her tongue, giggling. The two shared a laugh as Gabby went to get her normal outfit back on
As she looked out at the city, Emily couldn’t help but be depressed. She had just gotten a riot under control. Order in Montreal was falling apart. She desperately wanted to leave this place and be with Quinn again. As she walked amongst the public, there were two worlds that she was seeing. The first was the world that was in support of Winter’s Shadow. At a construction yard, there was a female worker who wore her hardhat like a mask and used a tarp as a cape, reciting the speech that Wolf had given. The whole crowd liked it. The blue-collar part of Canada loved her. Then there was another side. The white-collar side. This was where the ugliness caught her attention.
There was a little girl, running down the road. She had gotten a towel and was with her friends, pretending to be Wolf. As she ran down the road, her mother stopped her.
“What are you doing?! We’re Numbers now! You can’t do anything that would anger the Imperials! Do you understand?!”
The little girl started to cry. When she saw this, all she could think was – Why does everyone hate the Empire?
Right as the thought occurred to her, she saw Full-Crank come up by her side. He had been fighting a group of insurgents who was attacking a factory the Empire had taken over.
“Sad, isn’t it?”
She looked over at him. “What is?”
“That people are having to tell their children to not make us mad. As if we are a giant monster that is going to eat them the moment that they do something wrong.”
Emily sat at a bench. “When did it become like this? Was I just missing something?”
He sat down across from her. “No, it was always like this. They send in their deadliest attack-dogs, us. We scared them into submission, and now we are still the symbol of their terror. Just today, I turned the weapons of a factory on their own people. You manipulated the limbs of people staging a protest of the occupation and got them to run. If there is a God, I have a feeling that he is going to be keeping a warm place for us in the deepest recesses of Hell.”
She heard him say that, but didn’t want to think about what it meant. She didn’t want to think at all. I wish Quinn was here, so I could know that somebody loves me.
Far away, in Toronto, Shockwave was loving her day. She used the electrical lines of the city like zip-lines, skating down them. As she did, she felt the electricity surge into her. It felt amazing. She was working to put down another protest. But while Puppeteer didn’t want to harm anyone, she couldn’t have cared less. A man was about to throw a Molotov cocktail at her, and she shocked the glass bottle. It exploded on him, cooking him and those nearby. The people were screaming and running away. Well, this is a good day! Right as she spoke, she saw Inferno. He was letting loose with fireballs, raining them down on the terrified crowd.
“Run, you little fuckers! Run!” He shot from building to building, sending more fire down on the people as they ran. Shockwave caught up, landing beside him.
“Man, this is almost better than the war! A pity that they don’t put up any fight! Takes all the fun out of it!”
The man looked over, a giant smile on his face. “Maybe for you! For me, this is better than Christmas!” The two let fly, getting dozens maimed and killed.
“A pity that we can’t be doing this to that Wolf bitch!” Shockwave shouted. “That would make this better!”
“Maybe, but hey, take the good times when you get ’em!” They kept letting fly. Behind them, large portions of the city were on fire.
On a building some distance away, one of Elena Morrison’s crew was filming. A young man who was rather uncomfortable about being this close to the destruction.
“So, boss, can you please tell me why I’m doing this?!”
Over the phone, he could almost hear her smiling. “Trust me, we’re going to make the Specials into a story like they’ve never been before. It’s time for the Empire to face what they’ve made.”
The man nodded, keeping his camera steady. If I die, I’m haunting her and making her life miserable.
Emily got back to the dorm that night. Her mission was over. Utterly exhausted, she went looking for Quinn. As usual, she found her in her room. She knocked on the door. Please be home, Quinn. Please.
Seeing her girlfriend’s face open the door was like life to her. She ran in, holding her close. Quinn saw how hurt the girl was.
“Baby, what’s wrong?!”
Emily said nothing, just holding her tight. After several minutes, she pulled back. “Let’s not talk about it. I, I don’t know what to say. Can I stay here tonight?!”
Quinn smiled at her, nodding. “Of course! You know that I’m here, whenever you need me. You were there for me, after all. Come on, it’s late. Let’s go to bed.”
She looked back to her room. “But I haven’t even changed or brushed my teeth or-” Her words were cut off by Quinn’s lips.
“No, let’s go to bed. PJ’s are not a requisite of being in my bed.” She winked at her. “In fact, they tend to make cuddling much less fun.”
Emily didn’t argue. She just stripped down, letting Quinn hold her. She buried her face in her lover’s chest. That’s when the question came to her.
“Quinn, do you think I’m a monster?”
There was a long pause as she looked down at her. “Never! I could never think that about you, Emily!”
“But you don’t know! I’ve done horrible things! Monstrous, terrible things! You would hate me forever if you knew! I’ve-!”
Again her words were cut off by Quinn’s lips. “You don’t have to say anything. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. That’s all.” Emily looked up, about to say something. “That’s, all.”
The two rested again, with Emily realizing that she had to leave the military, soon. If she didn’t, then she wouldn’t be able to face the one she loved. I won’t become a person who can’t look the woman I love in the eye. Ever!
Until next time, a quote,
“I surrendered to you because, despite your attempt to convince me otherwise, you seem to have a conscience.” -Khan, Star Trek: Into Darkness